FN: Environmental Biology, what is that?
Megan: It’s a study of the natural world, from whole ecosystems to microscopic habitats.
It explores how plants, animals and microorganisms function and adapt to the environment.
Why does that interest you?
Well, a lot of people are interested in ‘why?’ questions. For me, I’m more interested in answering ‘how’.
When we ask questions like, ‘how can science clean the water?’ and ‘how does climate change affect our natural resources?’ you get things like water purification and solar panels.
So what are you working on at the moment?
I am working something called a phytoremediation experiment.
Haha, so if you had to simplify that a little more….?
Sure, so phytoremediation harnesses natural plant processes to assist in the clean up of pollutants in the natural environment.
We are trying to use plants to absorb harmful chemicals from soils.
This method has already helped clean up Petroleum Hydrocarbons and PCB pollution, as well as heavy metals including Lead, Uranium, Arsenic and Mercury!
How many plants out there can help combat pollution?
So far more than 400 plant species have been shown to have phytoremediation properties, but there are hundreds of thousands of plant species on Earth.
What did you study?
I studied a Bachelor of Environmental Biology and followed it up with a PhD in Invasive Plants.
I am guessing you studied all three sciences?
I sure did, I studied Biology, Chemistry and Geography.
What’s the biggest misconception about science?
People think that science is all lab coats and bunsen burners, but there is a huge opportunity to travel and see the world too. A lot of my work as a botanist is in forests, but just to give you an example, I have also measured coral species on the Great Barrier Reef and had a pod of whales surround us!
What’s your next step?
Interview is with Megan Phillips, Lecturer in Botanical Science and Environmental Remediation at UTS